Category Archives: Social Media

These posts describe and review mentions of cognitive research in the media.

Virtual Communication Perceptions

Most of the world has moved to virtual communication during these times of social distancing. Whether you’re working from home, visiting the doctor via telehealth, engaging in distance learning, or keeping in touch with family and friends, you’re most likely using some sort of virtual communication.

Luckily, we live in an age where we have various virtual platforms. Much communication can be done over the phone where we can hear what other people are saying. Another portion of communication can be done via video calls such as FaceTime, Duo, Zoom, Houseparty, etc. where you can not only hear what other people are saying, but you can also see their facial expressions and sometimes body language. The last way we are virtually communicating, and probably the way we most frequently communicate, is via text. Whether you are texting, emailing, posting on social media, typing into a chat with a doctor/counselor or on a forum, you are using text communication.

Virtual communication is extremely convenient; however, it has its disadvantages. Sometimes there’s background noise that makes it difficult to hear the person talking, or the reception is bad, or we ourselves are having a hard time hearing what someone is saying. Video calls have an advantage in that you can see the person(s) to interpret their facial expressions and occasional body language. Text communication is drastically different though. You aren’t hearing what the person is saying with your own ears and you aren’t seeing the person’s facial expressions and body language with your own eyes.

Think about reading. When you read you hear a voice that you’ve made up. You can’t see what’s happening, but you can visualize what’s going on through imagery. We are able to construct all of this based on our understanding of language, sentence structure, syntax, semantics, grammar, and our prior experiences.

Now think about SMS Text language. The language we all used in middle school because we had phones where you had to press the buttons a million times in order to say what you wanted to. It was easier to tell mom “OMW” rather than “On my way” when leaving a friend’s house. Maybe a friend asked if you wanted to hang out “L8R” rather than “later.” Text with people we know is interpreted differently than text with people we aren’t as familiar with. We tend to send more emojis when we’re trying to place emphasis.

In a study by Neuforn and Drinck, students in virtual learning environments were assessed for learning motivation based on the participants’ individual perceptions of written communication. They found that there were four important categories of a message: the appearance, the syntax, the vocabulary, and the empathetic communication.

Misunderstood Messages Between Hilariously Confused People | Funny ...      Communication Talking Transferring Information Listening Receiving ...

It’s important to remember, as we continue to virtually communicate, that the way we write something might not be interpreted the way we intended for it to be. There are times when things we say that people hear with their ears is misinterpreted. No matter how old the person(s) you are communicating with are, if they don’t know you super well, they might not take your sarcastic comment with four question marks very sarcastically. They may in fact, think you are being rather rude. Think about the audience you are talking to or aiming to talk to in addition to what you’re trying to say, and never respond when you’re angry.

Top 10 Funniest Text Messages from Parents – TechEBlog

A Distinction: Flashbulb Memories or Reminiscence Bump?


A Distinction: Flashbulb Memories or Reminiscence Bump?

2020 Flashbulb/Reminiscence Bump

We’re all well aware of what’s been happening in the past several months. Things have transpired in such a way that, from January to March, the news of current events have been particularly jarring. Among the coping culture of younger generations comes the production of memes in popular social media. Among these, we have the above: in which, ten years in the future, “2020” is a trigger for memories of what’s happened so far this year. From WWIII concerns to the current pandemic, its fair to say that the year has so far left a strong impression on us all.

So, how does this happen? There’s two possible options that I’ll discuss in my blog post. The first is flashbulb memories, which are very vivid memories within our autobiographical memory (most typically episodic memory). These flashbulb memories are closely associated with flashbacks, which are again closely associated with trauma or moments of substantially strong enough emotions, which can include receiving major news. In the month of January, there was a WWIII scare, which led to a deluge of social media referencing and which may have affected people to a certain degree, perhaps strongly enough to warrant the creation of flashbulb memories. However, while I’ve described flashbulb memories as being incredibly detailed and vivid, there’s one caveat that we must keep in mind: even though flashbulb memories are far more long lasting, they tend to be less accurate than our everyday memories, no matter how much more more we tend to feel more confident as to their accuracy.

A process through which we relive these memories is through recall initiated by what is widely regarded as a trigger, though is more scientifically known as a retrieval cue. Retrieval cues are stimuli that are relevant and closely related to other information that activates connections (formed through associations) within our brains that lead to other memories. Cues can cascade and waterfall – as we cue and remember specific information and memories, they can in turn cue even more information and memories.

Another potential contender that we have to explain the meme is the cognitive psychological phenomena of the reminiscence bump. Here, we have a strong recall of our autobiographical memories happening in our teens and 20’s. In short, older adult’s strongest memories are are of events and experiences that occurred between the ages of 10-30. The reminiscence bump applies to both semantic and episodic memories. Herein, we have three potential explanations (or perhaps even a mixture of all three or other combinations) as I learned them in my Psychology of Aging class:

  • Self-image – period of assuming one’s own self-image and sense of identity.
  • Cognition – encoding is typically better during periods of rapid change.
  • Cultural life script – culturally-shaped experiences structure recall.

Within my Cognitive Psychology class, we discussed another two potential factors:

  • Improvement of memory due to greater attention paid to life and surroundings (which falls in line with the aforementioned cultural life script).
  • And increased retrieval practice, brought about our tendency to reminisce (ironic isn’t it?) on what are typically viewed as the peak years of our lives, the highlights that shape us.

Now, I’ve mentioned two aspects of memory that I haven’t explained so it would only be right to properly define them for the audience. Episodic memories are a form of autobiographical memory; they’re narratives of our lives, recollections of events relevant to us like my mom’s wedding on the beach when I was 8 or the first time I swam a 50 yd freestyle sprint in under 22 seconds (CAC’s last year). Semantic memories, on the other hand, are statements of fact and are not necessarily tied to our personal lives – don’t have to be autobiographical. What’s the capital of France? What’s the legal drinking age in the US (though that may, perhaps, be of some personal relevance to some)?

Bottom line, I believe that whichever phenomena through which people remember the so-far memorable year of 2020 is something that is subjective and not necessarily mutually-exclusive. For some it could be one or the other, and for others it could be both. If you’ve enjoyed my blog post and/or have any questions for me, please don’t hesitate to to leave me a comment!. Best wishes in everything!

Stan’s Repressed Memory

Flashbulb and repressed memories took the lead in season eight, episode ten of American Dad: Blood Crieth Unto Heaven. Francine, Stan’s wife, decides to host a surprise party for Stan’s birthday. Very early in the episode, he declares that he hates birthdays without much explanation. It is later that he begins talking about his eighth birthday party in such detail and  emotion, that is appears to be a flashbulb memory, which is an autobiographical memory that is filled with vividness and emotion. This conclusion can be made based on the images of the show, such as Stan clearly seeing clothes being packed up, and a hand taking away the suitcase. The red lighting in this image accurately reflects the vivid emotion Stan is feeling as he tells this story.

Stan claims that he “remembers everything so clearly” about that party. This was the day that Stan’s father left his family, and Stan declares that the biggest memory he had was his “dad packing up and walking out” on them. Stan seems completely confident in his original story, but it has been found that confidence and accuracy are not related. Additionally, studies after 9/11 found that 37% of people who had flashbulb memories of the event gave a substantially different account a year later, but were still confident in their story.

American Dad succeeds in supporting both of these findings. At a later time in the episode, Stan repeats the story, this time talking to his father. Many of the details, such as it being his eighth birthday party, having a cake, clown, and guest of honor, all remain the same. However, this time, Stan witnesses his father suddenly walking into a taxi during the party, stating that he wants to get as far away from his family as possible.

The story changed from Stan’s father packing up and leaving, to his father surprisingly leaving. Young Stan (who is holding a green dog balloon) is clearly shocked in this scene. He was focused on his birthday party, and did not see his father pack up, as he did in the original story. However, Stan is still completely confident in this new version of the story. He likely never actually saw his father packing, as he claimed to in the first story, but rather added that into his story, and the way he remembers that day. Memory is reconstructive, and schemas allow us to assume things because they happen most of the time. In order for Stan’s father to leave with a small suitcase, he must have packed some of his items. Stan’s memory of his birthday is also negative, so he is much more likely to believe that most of that day was filled with negative emotion. Both of these can lead to the conclusion that Stan witnessed his father packing his bags and leaving as Stan screamed at him not to go.

Another explanation in addition to schemas leading to the reconstruction of his memory is that similar memories were combined into one experience. Stan had many childhood problems with his father, and it is possible that he saw his father pack at some previous time, and attributed that event to the day his father left permanently. Another explanation for flashbulb memories being inaccurate is through rehearsal, in which the original memory is combined with the memory of telling the story again and again, with the story changing slightly each time. However, Stan did not tell this story until during this party, so this was not the situation for this episode.

This episode finally ends with a repressed memory being recovered. Stan, whether he witnessed his father packing or not, did not know why his father left until he popped a balloon at his current-day party. He claims that he remembers a pop like that one the day his father left. He then has a flood of memories, in which he popped the green balloon the clown made, went to search for his mother, and heard a honking from her bedroom. When he opened the door, she was having intercourse with a clown. His father then reveals that it was him dressed as a clown.

Repressed memories, or an event that is encoded, actively forgotten, and then later recalled, are not generally remembered outside of things such as hypnosis and repression therapy. In 1997, Loftus found that 87% of first recovered repressed memories happen in therapy, making Stan one of the minorities.

Although there is question over whether repressed memories are real or if therapists are helping patients create memories, which is seen in the high percentage of people who “remember” during therapy, and in the fact that most of these people are also easily influenced and good candidates for hypnosis, it is interesting that this specific balloon pop led Stan to remember. I am sure his two children have had birthday parties, in which a balloon likely popped at some point. And even if none did, most people would experience hearing a balloon pop sometime between the age of eight and their middle ages.

This makes me wonder if he remembered this time because he was already talking about the event throughout the day or because it was Stan’s first birthday party since that day. The exact way that repressed memories are suddenly recalled is still unclear and controversial, so more research would have to be completed. A 2012 study found that even though childhood trauma is not correlated with recovered memories, trauma is correlated with fantasy proneness, which is itself related to recovered memories. This relationship is not very direct, but it is a step in explaining who is likely to experience recovered memories, even if they are not remembered in therapy.

I am overall skeptical of both repressed memories’ existence because of the correlation that Loftus found, and flashbulb memories’ accuracy because of the 9/11 study findings. However, this episode did an amazing job of capturing the controversy of these two topics by telling Stan’s story.

American Dad Season 8, Episode 10

Is Spelling Truly Important?

As I was scrolling through Facebook a couple weeks ago, I came across this post.

This has tired me out

Posted by Awesome Inventions on Tuesday, February 6, 2018

I found this post intriguing since we were learning about word recognition in class. How was my brain able to sift through this mess relatively quickly? I’m going to be honest- I’m still not completely sure. Our brains are so incredibly complicated and amazing that it’s impossible to fully understand them.

I believe that this phenomenon has lots of different mechanisms at work. Since the post said that it was created by research at Cambridge University, I started looking for the original post since we all know Facebook isn’t exactly 100% reliable. What I found was an article by Matt Davis, who works at Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, UK. Read his research on this subject here. He was able to break down the brain processes behind this phenomenon a bit more with lots of relevant studies. The main effect that came to mind when I first saw the Facebook post was the Word Superiority Effect that we discussed in class. It is because of this effect that we recognize letters more easily when they are in words than on their own. Davis generalized this effect to this exercise, saying “Following brief presentations of written words, people are often better at guessing what word they saw, rather than guessing individual letters in that word.” If we were to spend an excess amount of time with one of these words we may second guess ourselves or see other words that could be made by these letters.

This is not the only mechanism at work here. Obviously the context comes into play. You are less likely to decipher “mtaetr” by itself than in the post where it says “it dseno’t mtaetr…” Although the word superiority effect comes in to play, it works better when paired with meaningful context. You may not have caught it while reading the post- but the function words are still in tact. Words such as “the,” “a,” and “not” cannot be jumbled while keeping the first and last letter the same. This helps us to read the passage easier since some words are still the same. Similarly, short words such as “what” are barely jumbled and quite easy to decipher.

So is the post correct? Do we only read words as a whole? Does spelling matter? According to the research, this is true to an extent. It is easier for us to read words as a whole, but we are still able to distinguish between “salt” and “slat.” According to the Facebook post, our minds would not know the difference between these words. Obviously there is more happening here than just looking at the first and last letter. Spelling matters to an extent.

I thought this was so cool to try for myself and really dig into. The research behind exercises like this is incredible and so intriguing (to me at least.) We will never truly know every aspect and mechanism of cognition, but the more we know about how we learn and read the better we can shape our learning. Since I am studying to teach elementary kids this was completely relevant to me. There is a lot of debate on spelling tests now and I was interested to see how this study would be relevant. I think I’d rather have my kids free write and correct them as they go rather than doing spelling tests. As we saw earlier- context is important! If you’d like to learn more about the word superiority effect or see it in action yourself, try out this lab!




Memorization is as Easy as Pi

Akira Haraguchi, a man residing in Japan, was able to memorize 111,700 digits of pi. I am not sure about everyone else, but I have been able to memorize 3.14159, and this number was looped around more of my classroom walls than I would like to admit. My six memorized digits match the 7 +/- 2 digit span task that we have learned about. Of course, we now know that people can hold 7 +/- 2 chunks, so the only question is, how did Haraguchi manage to put 111,700 digits into five to nine chunks? Has he increased his working memory? This is where it gets complicated.

Haraguchi assigned each digit several syllables. In his interview, he reveals that the number zero is assigned the syllables o, ra, ri, ru, re, ro, wo, on, or oh. This puts his chunking at the maximum of nine, and he continues this for the rest of the numbers. Of course, there are ten number (0-9) in which he must memorize, so it might be assumed that his chunking capabilities are slightly higher than the average person’s. Now we know that each number is assigned various syllables, but how does that help him remember the order of pi? Haraguchi reveals that he has created over 800 stories by combining the syllables into words, the words into sentences, and so on.

This is utilizing deep processing, since he is giving meaning to numbers, which will lead to better recall later. Additionally, he sees pi as equal to saying the Buddhist mantra, which indicates that he has made it personal. This also helps with recall. His working memory has not (and could not) increased, but he has found a way around the five to nine digit “limit.” This is a lot more exciting than the 110 digits memorized by Steve using race times. The next question is: how could Haraguchi possibly remember the exact wording of all these stories, and in the right order?

One way Haraguchi might be ensuring that this does not occur is by rehearsing. He recites 25,000 digits a day, dedicating three hours of his life to saying numbers by telling stories. As Reisberg discussed in chapter eight of Cognition, along with nearly every teacher I have had since high school, you are more likely to be able to recall something if it was learned well originally, and if you revisit the material later by practicing it. Haraguchi is essentially quizzing himself on part of pi every day, helping him to remember the order of the story, and thus the number.

I know The Guardian is not the best place to find “real” psychological news, but I was disappointed that there were not more details about how he memorizes pi. The chunking and meaning all make sense, but even by practicing 25,000 digits a day, how does he memorize 111,700 digits without mixing up the order of the stories or using a synonym for a word (I know that I never end up using the exact wording of a story twice). This is briefly explained when Haraguchi states that the first hundred digits are all about humans, but if there are over 100,000 digits and the first story chunk is only one-hundred, the rest must be much larger chunks in order to meet the 7 +/- 2, or he has much more than nine chunks.

My guess is that he splits his chunks into chunks, but did not mention it during the interview. Perhaps the first 15,000 digits are stories about living things, which break up into humans, cats, dogs, trees, etc. The next 15,000 may be household items, and include stories about couches, silverware, etc. Perhaps even these categories are split into smaller parts. I initially thought it would be impossible to memorize over 100,000 digits (the 110 discussed in class seemed incredible!), but I now believe that with many years of dedication and practice, it is possible. This does, however, leave me with the question: is there a limit to how many chunks within chunks a person can have? My best guess is yes, since the 7 +/- 2 chunks seems to hold true.

One possibility

Here is a diagram I created to explain my best guess of how Haraguchi memorizes so many digits. He stated that he uses the ones I labeled “humans,” “words,” “syllables,” and “numbers,” and I inferred the “living things” and “staying positive” in order to explain how 800 stories can be placed in 7 +/- 2. Notice that there are six steps that I created for my possible explanation, which still goes along with the chunking theory.

Although this article was mostly informal (such as asking Haraguchi how he plans on spending March 14), the questions and information about how he is able to remember so many digits fascinated me. I was disappointed that there were a few gaps I had to do my best to fill in so that the cognitive psychology would make sense (there is no way 800 stories are only split into humans, animals, and plants because that would be many more than nine stories per genre), but I would be interested in future interviews with Haraguchi explaining his process of memorization in more detail. Is my theory correct? Do you think you could memorize over 100,000 digits? This kind of memorization would require a lot of attention and effort; probably more than I have.


Attention Blink and ADHD



People who have ADHD are more likely to experience difficulties with the attention blink test.  Due to their difficulty to stare at a fixed space and attention deficit they miss more letter sequences. 



To put this into perspective, this can be applied to the real world for any given person in circumstances such as if a driver in front of you is swerving off the road, you will briefly become focused on that catastrophe (attention blink) in the making and lose sight of the specific details of the traffic around you in that moment.  I can only imagine how difficult it may be for a student in a classroom that is not on ADHD medication and is trying to pay attention to a lecture but sees phones lighting up with notifications or hears students talking outside in the hallway.

As someone who has ADHD (not on medication) this makes sense to me.  When doing the attention blink test on the Zaps program used in my Cognitive Psychology class there was a continuous stream of 80 different tests.  I found myself fidgeting in my seat and having to take breaks.  It made me feel irritable and impatient and I had a hard time finding the first letter in the sequence for the first few trials.  Eventually I sort of picked it up but I struggled finding a second letter in the sequence.



Cognitive Look at Whyy Some People Prefer Trump Over Clinton or Vice Versa

With the end of Obama’s term to serve as president is gradually coming to a close, people wonder who will be the next president of the United States.  This requires some reasoning and decision making from voters throughout the country.  How do people choose which candidate would make best president among a pool of candidates running?  It all revolves some cognitive thinking.  Perception is one of the biggest factors in helping people to decide who they deem worthy of the executive position.  Before voting, voters will often figure out which running candidate is most competent, or who is the most capable and how qualified the person is for the title in government.   It is common sense to know that most people vote on a candidate based on their style of leading.  The question is, do people choose candidates based off of physical traits or based on intuitive traits. From the beginning of human evolution, judging people and animals based on their physical traits has been a natural process that used to differentiate harmless animals or people from predators or enemies.  This perception of their physical traits then affects what we think of all internal traits of candidates such as their political abilities.  This is unfair to some candidates because people think they are making rational decisions, when really, the majority of people are voting on the person whose face is most appealing and looks like a face that could be seen as a possible coined leader.

Researchers have conducted an experiment to see if judging a person’s face typically leads to thoughts about that person as a whole.  They had participants rate the level of competence of each candidate for Senate between years 200-2004 and found that the more often and longer the participants were exposed to seeing the faces of particular candidates, the more often the exposed candidates were chosen as more competent.  This explains why some people may choose candidates in our current election more than other candidates such as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  There are people who ask each other why in the world anyone would vote for Hillary Clinton? Or why would anyone vote for Donald Trump? These two candidates are in the lead and they most likely received most votes out of all candidates thanks to their facial features and their externally-appealing political leadership style.  So why do people choose some candidates over others? People judge books by their covers, which colors the internal pages of the character and competence levels of candidates.   

It has also been shown that physical differences in the brain can predetermine which candidate a person would vote for.  The thought process of conservative voters is more amygdala and fear-based, while liberal minds focus more on the gray between black and white situations and their opinions are colored by new information.  This however is not the only reason people prefer a candidate from others.  People also like different leadership styles. For example, Donald Trump voters like a leader who is good at articulating his vision directly and concisely.  Cruz voters prefer a leader who is good at articulating his faith and at the same time his vision.  People prefer different candidates due to a variety of physical differences in their brains, liking a certain type of leadership style and because of perception judgments.  





Have you ever walked into your bedroom and noticed a slight difference but could not pin-point exactly what had changed since the last time you were in the room? What about if you were finding the 12 significant differences between two photos in the second glance section of the Washington Post magazine? Both these examples are of change blindness. The visual processing that occurs in change blindness is when someone is unable to detect the precise changes in settings that they’re looking at directly. The reason behind this phenomen is because our brain fills in the slight differences to make us not process these changes until we actually focus on the image.

For example, if we were looking at two images that pretty much looked exactly the same but instead of someone wearing a green colored shirt in one photograph, they are wearing a blue colored shirt in the other photograph. However, our brain skips over this difference and we don’t even realize we are making this mistake. This concept can commonly happen because our brain processes visual stimuli so quickly that we don’t visually pick up on these changes between these two pictures. In the picture above, we see two scenes that pretty much show the same stimuli but there are a few differences between both the photos. Until further examination, do you begin to notice the little differences between the two pictures. For example, in the first photo the man in the white tank top is wearing a gold watch but in the second photo, there is no gold watch on his wrist.  Some of my research about change blindness tries to understand why this concept even happens on a regular basis. Researchers ask questions like what sorts of changes did they miss? Under what conditions? What are the limits of their ability to remember these scenes? With what attention do we hold onto to these visual details? These are all valid questions when it comes to trying to piece together how change blindness evolves in the visual cortex of the brain.

 Why can’t you notice direct changes that are directly in front of you at first glance? New York Times writer Natalie Anger writes in Blind to Change, Even as It Stares Us in the Face how visual stimuli is processed during change blindness. Anger argues that the two key processes that occur during in change blindness is top-down processing and bottom-up processing. During bottom-up processing a person is more likely to see a stimuli popping up in view like their friend was waving at them from across the room. Although, the top-down processing is harder to detect. Top-down processing requires someone to really focus on the stimuli in front of them. Angier references what Dr. Jeremy Wolfe of Harvard Medical School had to say about this concept. Wolfe says, “The basic problem is that far more information lands on your eyes than you can possibly analyze and still end up with a reasonable sized brain”(Angier). What Wolfe is saying here is that our brain can only handle so much information at once. Which is why sometimes people can skip over stimuli that is right in front of them.

Let’s dig deeper into more change blindness examples. In several magic tricks, the magician performs a task that makes the participant think they are perceiving one action take place but they’re not paying enough attention to process the actual trick the magician is executing. Our brain tricks into this misconception. In addition, sometimes the magician might be distracting the participant by talking to them or make them focus their attention on something else during the magic trick. Once the trick is over, we think the answer is obvious but it is not until that we really focus that we realize we were compliantly “blind” during the whole trick. This is exactly how magicians decieve people into their tactics of change blindness.

I think change blindness can be applied in most every day situations. Overall, the human brain can only retain so much rapid information at a constant period. Which is why you’re more likely to not see every single difference that you encounter. Even if when you think you feel like you have all your attention on certain type of stimuli in front of you, you can still miss a small detail that passes by faster for you even to process and retain it later. The important thing to remember about change blindness is that its okay to miss some stimuli that appears in front of you, as long as it doesn’t become a habit in which it takes you longer for you to process every single type of stimuli.


Young, J. (2016, February 21). Second Glance. Washington Post Magazine. from

Angier, N. (2008, April 1). Blind to Change, Even as It Stares Us in the Face. New York Times. from

Simons, D. J. (2000). Current Approaches to Change Blindness. Visual Cognition, 7(1-3), 1-15. Doi:10.1080/135062800394658

Do Tattoos Make Us Feel Better About Ourselves?

Image result for tattoos


For my last blog post I wanted to write about something I was really interested in. I thought about our current generation and our love for body art, mainly tattoos. It is very rare to meet someone that does not have at least one tattoo these days. It has become pretty normal, but still taboo if excessive. I have a tattoo myself and plan to get more the future. It was something I enjoyed getting, and I like the look it has given my body. I decided to research and see if this want for tattooing had something to do with the brain. If only some of us had this trigger in the brain that made us want to continue modifying our bodies.

I found and article in Psychology Today titled If Tattoos Could Talk. This article discussed how this is something humans have been doing since the beginning of time. This article said tattoos may have been done in the past to ease pain, and could also be done to conform to society or to show when someone is an adult. Tattoos make you look like a more interesting person. People also get tattoos to show certain religious or magical symbols which help strengthen that person. This is article also talked about tattoos and self-esteem, and that stood out to me. When people get a new tattoo they tend to feel better about themselves, maybe even more attractive. Could this be a real self-esteem issue?

Image result for tattoos

I could not find any articles that talked about tattoos and self-esteem and the cognitive level, but I still wanted to explain the brain and self- esteem. An article in the Huffington Post titled, This is Where Self-Esteem Lives in the Brain, gives a little information about the topic. A recent study has shown the self-esteem is in the frontostriatal pathway of the brain. This pathway connects the medial prefrontal cortex, and the ventral striatum. These have to do with self-knowledge and our feelings of reward. This makes sense for some people that gets tattoos to boost self-esteem. If someone has self-knowledge that is low, which can mean a low mental health state or a low thoughts of one self, that same person may get the tattoo as a reward.

This blog post is not to say that everyone that gets a tattoo has low self-esteem. I think people have many reasons for getting inked and low self-esteem is one of many. The self-esteem option was just the one I was most interested in. Since tattoos are gaining popularity I hope more research will be done to see why people decided on this particular option. I someone is getting a tattoo for self-esteem reasons will they ever have enough?

Image result for Full body tattoo

Regardless or your reasoning for any body modification. If it’s not harmful to yourself or anyone else I say tattoo on!

Is Your Brain Weird?

It is, according to this Buzzfeed article. The article is entitled “11 Memory Facts That Prove Your Brain Is Weird.” The article talks about weird memory phenomena, like false memories and context-dependent memories. Along with each fact is a description and a nifty GIF of a fuzzy animal or a movie quote. So that’s pretty cool. But even cooler, unlike many social media mentions of cognition, this article actually backs its assertions up with real cognitive research! I’ll take you through a few of the mentioned memory facts, summarizing their points, and then I’ll analyze their respective research articles.

open-door-day-samo-za-vjesti-1First, the Buzzed article talks about that familiar sensation of walking into a room and totally forgetting why you had to go to that room. In this study by Gabriel Radvansky, participants were given tasks to complete in a virtual reality comprised of many rooms. Each room had two tables with an object on one table. They had to carry the object to the other table or into another room, but once holding it, they couldn’t see it any longer. They would be tested frequently on which object they were holding and which they had just put down. Participants performed much more poorly on memory tasks when they had just crossed through a door than when they had traveled the same distance but remained in the same room.

This study made me think of memory tasks where participants forget details of a story (the bus driver example) because their brain automatically makes the call about what information is important and what isn’t, without the person actually deciding, and doesn’t encode the irrelevant info into long term memory. Similarly, in this study, participants’ brains recognize the doorway as a marker of the end of an episode. The door serves as an event boundary, so the brain decides which information is no longer likely going to be relevant, and it is dropped from the working memory in preparation for new, more relevant information in the new room. This is an example of our brain jumping the gun and automating a process to save us time, attention, and effort. When it works to our advantage, it’s great, and we don’t notice it. When it doesn’t, however, we forget why we came into a room and get really frustrated!

RV-AB577_WEEKIN_DV_20110208191537Another weird memory fact mentioned in the Buzzfeed article is that closing your eyes can help you remember more effectively. In a recall study, participants were shown a video and then reported on it (free or cued recall). They were tested a few minutes later and again a week later. Some participants had their eyes open during recall tests, and others had their eyes closed. The study found that eye-closure had no effect on recall in the first test, but increased accuracy on the second test by 37%. It even helped participants recall things they hadn’t reported the first time.

What is causing this phenomenon? My first inclination is to think it has something to do with attention. We learned in class that attention is a resource (why else do we say “pay” attention?). This resource is limited, and our brains can only consciously focus on so many things at once. Perhaps something about closing our eyes helps limit which stimuli are demanding our attention, and allows us to focus inwardly and more effectively recall previously encoded information. The study mentions also that eye-closure only helps us with “fine-grain visual details,” not overall big picture, or even auditory details. This indicates that the effectiveness of eye closing has to do with how we encode information. When the information we encode is very visual (the example in the study is “she elbowed him in the face”), closing our eyes allows us to relive the moment and re-visualize what occurred. This improves recall.

I found this article to be very interesting. Memory is complicated and messy, and that makes it always worth studying. I especially appreciated the references to how our brain automates complicated processes in order to make our experience more simple and streamlined. We’ve learned a lot about this trend in class, and seeing it at work in memory was interesting. In some ways, it departed from the usual social media science article, which tends to throw out crazy facts with vague research backing it up. The article provided direct links to cognitive research that supported its assertions. My only issue with the article was the way it approached some of the research findings. It seemed that the author was more focused on the “wow” factor of its studies than in actually imparting the main points of the research studies. In the eye-closing study, for example, many interesting findings were left out of the Buzzfeed summary in favor of the more simple, attractive finding. Overall, however, I liked this article.